By PAM HARBAUGH
Although relatively new on Brevard’s community theater scene, Dominic Del Brocco has gained a following with not even a handful of Brevard community theater shows to his directorial name. Take a look at the immediate popularity and near sell-out status of SISTER ACT, the musical currently on stage at the Henegar.
A musical originally produced in London, in part, by Whoopi Goldberg, “Sister Act” is based on the screenplay by Joseph Howard, “Sister Act” the musical was written by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Like the 1992 movie (starring Whoopi), it revolves around nightclub singer Delores Van Cartier witnessing a murder and being put into witness protection program. She is sent to the Queen of Angels convent, a dilapidated spot run by nuns who struggle to keep it open.
Delores takes on the identity of Sister Mary Clarence and brings her showbiz know-how to the convent’s choir, creating a community appeal so strong that even the Pope comes to see a service.
Meanwhile, of course, the murderer, who happens to be Delores’ boyfriend, pursues her.
Despite his “new-to-the-Brevard-scene” status, Brocco has plenty of directing experience and know-how, so he knew he had to get a great cast, especially for the actress who would play Delores. He turned to Orlando talent Lillie Thomas, with whom he had worked last season at Titusville Playhouse’s “Rock of Ages.” She was a backup singer in that show, he said, but with “Sister Act,” she gets to show off her “beautiful voice.”
While this is the first time Thomas has performed at the Henegar, there are other cast members who are quite well known to Henegar audiences.
Karen Monks, who most recently was grouchy Miss Hannigan in the Henegar’s popular production of “Annie,” takes on the role of the doubtful Mother Superior. And Brevard’s legendary actress Joan Taddie, who has made multiple appearances both on stage and as director at the Henegar, is Sister Mary Lazarus, the crass and outspoken nun who learns a new skill from Delores.“Everybody will be pretty amazed at (Taddie’s) ability to rap,” Del Brocco said.
Men who hate the idea of going to see a show filled with women in habits need not fear. “Sister Act” also has significant male roles so husbands won’t have to grouse to their wives (who usually have to sit through plenty of shows with predominantly, and sometimes only, male characters…so none of these men better not even think about grousing around me).
In addition to a big cast, Del Brocco also has to deal with frequent big scenic shifts. In fact, that’s the show’s biggest challenge, he said. The show has a false proscenium and large set pieces that use up “every ounce of space that we can,” he said.
“There are so many changes within the first act that are very cumbersome,” Del Brocco said. “But (the tech crew is) able to execute them effortlessly.”
Ironically, his favorite moment does not employ a big scenic shift.
“While the big show-stopping numbers are flashy and upbeat, for me, I think, my favorite part of the show is a song Delores sings called ‘Sister Act,’ which is a ballad that follows a disco dream sequence.
“For all the over the top, big bulky scenes, my favorite is when she’s just at a desk in the light singing her song.”
And although he never lets anyone sees him sweat, Del Brocco had quite a day before opening: he had to serve jury duty and then jump in for a stage extra who had to suddenly drop out.
“They’re just two quick cameo scenes,” he said. “Hopefully you won’t even notice. I’ll be watching like the rest of the audience, run up there and do my little thing and get back to enjoying.”
“Sister Act” runs through Feb. 4 at the Henegar Center, 817 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Tickets are $26 general, $23 seniors, military and students and $13 for children. A $3 handling fee applies to all tickets. Call 321-723-8698, visit Henegar.org or click on their ad.
This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider.